Grey Rock, Laporte, CO

Although in the last month I have re-done a number of amazing hikes, I’ve already covered those in previous blog posts (Check out Horsetooth Falls and Arthurs Rock!). My latest (and now favorite) hike of them all is Grey Rock, located in Laporte, Colorado.

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This hike was about a twenty minute drive from my apartment, but unfortunately, the trailhead I mapped out was not the correct one. It was 4:30 am when I left, and going into the mountains at that time means absolutely no light. The trailhead I was led to had closed gates, and since I didn’t want a trespassing ticket, I headed further into the mountains in search of phone service. There is literally no service at 90% of places throughout the mountains, but if I could get some I would be able to map out a route to a new trailhead.

Whether it be fate, or getting lost in the right direction, I found the actual trailhead for Grey Rock about 7 minutes further down the road, and an open (and free!) parking lot. It was great–and proved that I didn’t get up at four in the morning for nothing. No way did I want to turn back at that point, so you can imagine my excitement when I found the real trailhead.

I wish I could tell you what the first half of the hike looked like–but walking in the middle of the forest, with only flashlights on the path in front of you at five in the morning, kind of neglects you of that courtesy. But don’t worry!

By around 6:15, I could see light peaking up over the edges of the trees and hills that surrounded us. We began to turn our flashlights off as time went on, until we were completely in light around 6:45 am. Our goal was to reach the summit of Grey Rock around sunrise (6:50 am), but we weren’t to the top until about 7:15 am.

It will take you about an hour and a half to two hours to reach the summit–keep that in mind for sunrise or sunset hikes.

So, I have to say that the view was amazing, breathtaking, awesome. It didn’t take long for me to realize this was my favorite hike by far. Whether that be that I couldn’t see all the elevation gain I was doing in the dark, or the summit’s outlook, or the whole feel of the hike itself–it made it all absolutely worth it.

On the way down, I got to see what we actually had accomplished on the way up. The hike started on a rocky dirt path, intertwining between a stream, and a majority of the time was spent on this type of trail (about one hour). Then, the path becomes more elevated, leading you to a false summit, where you then can view the actual Grey Rock in its entirety.

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Following the trail and eventual cairns, you are rock climbing to the very end. This last half mile is difficult and I suggest breaking often, as well as constantly checking that you are going in the right direction (as one wrong move might lead you off a cliff). The view is spectacular. I mean, I’ve been on top of plenty of mountains, but this one was my favorite.

I can’t wait to go back–and I hope to do that very soon!

Some tips: Bring plenty of water, bring sturdy hiking boots or shoes (that you wouldn’t mind getting dirty), bring your camera, and bring your friends!

As always, safe and happy hiking.

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When In Rome..

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Although its been quite some time since I was given the amazing opportunity to travel to Rome, Italy, I find myself thinking about my time there more and more frequently. I hope that that was one of my many times traveling to some place I have never been before, and as my junior year of college approaches faster than ever, I am researching tons and tons of study abroad programs to further that dream. Its unimaginable what the rest of the world holds and the fact that I’ve only seen a very tiny fraction of it is devastating.

I long for that feeling when you are walking down any random street that looks good to you, when you are popping in and out of local stores without a care in the world, and just being immersed into another culture altogether.

So, I’ve compiled a list of 10 things to see and do when in Rome..

1. The Pantheon

The Pantheon, once a temple and now a church, is absolutely breathtaking. Its structure, architecture, and design, was the first of its time and this remarkable building is still standing today. To put in perspective quite how old Rome’s historical sites are, there is bird poop on these places older than the United States itself. Its unbelievable. I still remember learning about the rose petal ceremony–where firefights climb the dome after a mass and the raining of petals parallels the first Pentecost experience. (And although my dad insisted on going back to the Pantheon five times, I would give anything to be back there right now.)

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2. The Colosseum

Of course the Colosseum is a must-see! And beyond that, knowing some of the history behind it is shocking. Little did I know what truly happened within those stone walls until I heard it up close and personal, and was standing where history had occured. Barbaric is an understatement, as I stood where others had watched the worst criminals and slaves be eaten by wild animals, like lions, alive–as a form of entertainment and torture depending on who you were.

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Colosseum at dusk

3. The Vatican (St. Peters Basilica)

This is a place you definitely want to visit–if not spend the day here. There is so much to do and see its hard to fit it all in to a few sentences. But by a stroke of luck, I was there the same day as the Pope. Which from there, he came forward into the crowd to bless babies and spread his love, and I was within fifteen feet of him! Pope Francis can speak 7 languages (Yes, SEVEN!) and was an inspiration to all of the Roman people there that day.

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4. Trevi Fountain

This is a beautiful place for pictures, exploring, and sight-seeing. I strongly recommend at least walking by to marvel at its size, baroque architecture, and take in the whole feel of Rome. Unfortunately, when I visited the fountain was closed, but still being able to see what it looks like and what it has been, was an experience in itself. (On a side note, also be sure to see the Roman baths–I had one on the lower level of my hotel even–and it was astonishing to know what lied just beneath my feet.)

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5. Sistine Chapel

The Sistine Chapel, also located in the Vatican and the home of the Pope, shows the amazing artistic talent of the time and history of Rome itself. The high Renaissance art covering every inch of the ceiling left me in awe. Although its astounding enough to want to take pictures, that is not allowed, and you are expected to stay quiet when viewing. There are guards who will yell at you if you are talking too much, and the amount of respect in the chapel was like none I had ever felt before.

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6. Piazza Navona

Street art, fountains, and a famous piazza all in one. Piazza Navona is a gorgeous, open space for all to enjoy. Its a place to relax after walking through the districts all day, to take in the day-to-day lifestyle of Rome, and to see all the people who think of this as “normal” in their hometown.

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7. Altare della Patria

As my family and I adventured through the Roman twists and turns of streets, we had no idea what would be right around the corner. We were stunned, and stopped dead in our tracks as this amazingly gigantic building loomed before us. None of us knew what it was, how it was significant, or why it was there–but we soon found out. It is not only a monument to the first king of unified Italy, but holds the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

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8. Walking Food Tour

The walking food tour was one of the coolest, most interactive things I did while in Rome. For a few hours we walked the cobblestone streets of Italy, heading into the smallest nooks and crannies of food shops, and tried true Italian treats, drinks, and meals. The most influential part for me was going to a wine cellar, where every step you took to get down the stairs, was going 100 years into the past. It was like nothing I had ever experienced before.

9. Roman Forum

The Roman Forum is exactly what you find when you picture Rome. There are temples, pillars, and crumbling architecture all around you to observe and take in. Its a great photo opportunity and a very iconic place to visit.

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10. Castel Sant Angelo

Yes, go to a castle! Although my family and I did not venture inside, the outside was enough to keep us intrigued on what the history, the structure, and the culture that the Castel Sant Angelo represented. It is a great spot for pictures as well as just walk around and view some other parts of Rome that you hadn’t seen before.

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It was hard to limit this list to only 10 things to see and do in Rome–because there is so much more! As well as being able to travel, by train or a quick flight, not only to other places in Italy, but Europe. There is more than enough to keep you busy–tours, restaurants, historical landmarks. I strongly recommend checking some of these things off your list, as well as venturing out on your own every now and then. Depending on how much time you have, you could experience these things and so much more. I can’t wait to experience life in a whole new way with the next place I travel to–the hard part is just waiting for that opportunity to arrive!

Cheers To The Second Year

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Here we are again–back at the Colorado State University. There was a point in time when I never thought I would have another first day of school here, when I never thought I would be a mile high for anything other than to visit, when I never thought I would walk this campus again as a Ram.

But here we are. So it goes as they say.

I’m someone who forgives others way too easily and way too much. I can give you a thousand chances before I learn a thing or two, and it actually worked out for me this time.

After my first semester of my first year, transferring was a big option for my future. I applied and looked toward other schools, researched scholarships, programs, and rankings, as well as contacted some advisors. It didn’t help that I kept this from everyone and was planning on suggesting the change at the start of summer. But even I couldn’t last that long with such a big secret. April was my breaking point on being honest with my family and making those life-altering decisions. But I gave CSU another chance.

I am able to look back on that second semester, on everything it was, and say that I made it. That I’m okay. That I’m happy now. And I have never felt such a sense of pride and growth, of comfort and confidence, of ease and lack of doubt. I don’t worry anymore. I don’t feel like I did anymore. I don’t forget though, I can’t. Because I learned so much in that first year–about college, about people, about myself. About how I want to live my life and what I want to get out of it.

I am so thankful. I thank my lucky stars every single day for what has happened to me. For what hasn’t happened to me. For what will happen to me. I am so blessed. I am beyond grateful for everything happening exactly as it did to bring me to where I am today. I wake up every day with a huge smile on my face, with a plan, with a goal, and with the peace of mind I never had last year.

I know what college really is now. I know what it is supposed to be like. I know what its all cracked up to be. And I’m cherishing every moment of it. I’m not going to say I deserve this happiness, because it can be taken away just as easily as it was gained, but I can appreciate it that much more from what happened in my past year. It isn’t enough to even do that, but knowing how precious it all is has given me this new love for life. Its quite amazing. And so is this adventure I am beginning. Lets see where it takes me. Lets let it go and just be. Be here where we are.